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With its golden sands and irresistible holiday vibe, the Gold Coast has long been a favourite for travellers seeking a seaside escape where they can swim and soak up the sun. However, this famous Queensland holiday destination offers so much more than a day at the beach. With no shortage of tours and activities, it can be difficult to choose which experiences will leave cherished memories and which ones probably aren’t for you. This guide provides an overview of some of the best things to do on the Gold Coast for travellers of all ages. Let’s kick things off with the biggest and most famous attraction on the Gold Coast: the beach.

Q1 Resort and Spa and home to SkyPoint Climb
Q1 Resort and Spa is home to SkyPoint Climb

Hit the beach

It always amazes me that when I ask people what they did on the coast, they tell me all these amazing activities but skip the beach. Even if you aren’t a keen swimmer, don’t miss the thing that travellers from around the world come to the Gold Coast for. Make a point of making a date with the beach each day for a swim or a stroll or just to inhale the fresh salty air. For those after a bit more zing, you can grab a board and hit the surf.

Ride the waves at Coolangatta

Ride the waves in paradise and beyond

The sight of board riders sailing down the crest of the Gold Coast’s famous waves has a mystique of freedom and zen that many of us think we can only dream of. However, don’t make the mistake of thinking you can’t experience this incredible feeling too. Your dreams can become a reality with scores of Gold Coast surf schools like Get Wet Surf School available from Surfers Paradise down to the iconic Snapper Rocks at Coolangatta. You can even get one-on-one lessons from expert surfers if big groups are not your thing and live the dream of catching the waves.

Surfers Paradise Beach
Surfers Paradise Beach

Explore the coast in the slow lane

The Gold Coast has some of the longest stretches of sand in the world and in our humble opinion, also some of the best. With this stretch of sand you also get an equally long boardwalk courtesy of the Gold Coast City Council. It’s perfect for a slow explore on two feet or two wheels or four wheels if you ride a skateboard. You can ride all the way from Surfers Paradise to Coolangatta on prodomanitly coastal bike/walking paths, a distance one way of 54 km. Check out the great Gold Coast Cycling Guide.

Cycling on the Gold Coast

Gold Coast bike hire

If you don’t have your own bicycle, you can rent one of the many electric bikes from LIME bikes and scooters to give you lots of help exploring without running out of puff. The cost is $1 to unlock the bike and 45 cents per minute. Riders can also opt for a day pass at $16.99 for 24 hours and there’s no need to return your bike to your starting spot either. Simply ride wherever you wish and leave your bike when you’re done so it can be hired by someone else who walks past and wants to go for a ride.

Gold Coast yoga classes by the beach

Gold Coast yoga classes with the sound of the waves

If you’re after something healthy and invigorating, head to one of the many beachside locations on the Gold Cosat for some yoga and meditation. As part of the Gold Coast City Council’s Active and Healthy Program you can participate in one of the many classes available all along the coast at all different times to suit your needs for a modest $5 or even for free in some instances. Cheek out all details on the City of Gold Coast website which has detailed information on activities, locations and times.

Snorkel at Cook Island

Staying on the water, let’s head out for a snorkel to Cook Island which is located just off Point Danger and home to tropical fish and turtles. Regular snorkel and diving trips are available with Watersports Guru to explore this little known spot off the coast where you can get wet and find some fishy friends.

Gold Coast kayak sunrise tour

Gold Coast kayak tour

If you would prefer to keep your head above water, exploring the Gold Coast seaway and Wave Break Island might be for you. Don’t worry, you won’t be taking on any waves as this trip explores the inner waterways of Southport with calm waters and a picture perfect background provided by the natural beauty and towering skyscrapers which make up the Gold Coast skyline. If you don’t mind an early start, take a sunrise adventure tour with Australian Kayaking Adventures for a fresh look at the GC.

Paradise Jet Boating

Gold Coast jetboating tour

If you desire a little adventure with some spins and you’re not afraid of getting wet, then you need to try jetboating on the Gold Coast. With stunning scenery and a backdrop of the high rise of Surfers Paradise, an action-packed tour on these fast boats will have you holding onto your hat as you experience fast twists and turns on the inner waterways of the southern Gold Coast. It’s also a chance to cruise past the homes of the rich and famous who call the Gold Coast home.

Skypoint Climb

Touch the sky on the Gold Coast

If you want to get a great 360-degree view of the Gold Coast and don’t mind heights, then Skypoint Climb is for you. Located at the Q1 building in Surfers Paradise, this tour takes you 270 metres above sea level (around 77 storeys) and sees you climbing up an outdoor staircase above the Skypoint Observation Deck. This totally immersive experience lets you view the Gold Coast from every angle with the wind in your hair and a smile on your face. Rest assured, it’s very safe as you are tethered to a safety rail at all times during the climb. Accompanied by professional guides this experience is a must for those seeking a safe yet thrilling adventure with the most amazing views of the Gold Coast thrown in. If you aren’t keen on the idea of the climb, the Observation Deck is also worth a visit as well.

iFly Gold Coast
Taking flight at iFly Gold Coast

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Skydive on the Gold Coast

If you think you would like to skydive but are not overly keen on jumping out of a perfectly good aeroplane, iFLY could be just what you’re looking for. Located in the heart of Surfers Paradise, iFly Gold Coast offers indoor skydiving that has you floating on air in a vertical wind tunnel. This amazing experience will have you literally jumping up and down with excitement as you launch into the tunnel with your instructor who gets you stable in the airflow so you are free-floating. While the few minutes you spend in the tunnel might sound very quick, you actually get more time in floating on air in freefall at iFly than if you did a (much more expensive) skydive out of a plane.

The first Gold Coast theme park, Dreamworld, opened in 1981

Gold Coast theme parks  

The first Gold Coast theme park, Dreamworld, opened in 1981 and has had its good and bad times. All of the Gold Coast theme parks are currently rebuilding with new rides and shows to bring back the crowds of yesteryear. If you’re planning a visit, always check on opening hours and ride availability as some rides might not be operating because of maintenance. Also, be aware the parks are a good 45-minute drive from Surfers Paradise and like all attractions, it’s best to get there early to get the most out of the day. 

Gold Coast dining delights

The Gold Coast has an amazing assortment of dining options from 5-star hatted restaurants to takeaways, cafes, and bistros that are a cut above the average eatery. A few highlights on the Gold Coast are Yamagen at Surfers Paradise, Social Eating House + Bar at Broadbeach, The North Room at Mermaid Beach, Little Truffle also at Mermaid Beach and for some very fine dining, Vanitas at Palazzo Versace at Main Beach. Whatever your taste and budget, the Gold Coast delivers when it comes to delicious food.

ArtVo Illusions
ArtVo Illusions at Robina Town Centre

Indoor fun at ArtVo Gold Coast

If you want some fun and also something a little different, head to ArtVo Gold Coast at Robina Town Centre. This is an amazing  ‘trick-art’ gallery where you get to immerse yourself in the art with some funky 3D effects that make it look like you can tightrope walk across a ravine, fight a dragon or survive a shipwreck. ArtVo Gold Coast is particularly good if you’re looking for wet weather things to do on the Gold Coast.

Looking for some Gold Coast accommodation? Read our reviews of the Hilton Surfers Paradise, Oaks Calypso Plaza, The Darling, Surfers Paradise Marriott, Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat, The Star Grand, voco Gold Coast, Wyndham Hotel Surfers Paradise, AVANI Broadbeach Gold Coast Residences, Rydges Gold Coast Airport, Oaks Gold Coast Hotel, JW Marriott Gold Coast Resort & Spa, and the retro La Costa Motel. If you’re visiting the Gold Coast, don’t miss our Ultimate Guide to the Gold Coast.

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Trevor Templeman is a photographer and writer who travels the world capturing the essence of locations through their landscape, architecture and people. His words and photographs are published in magazines, newspapers and online around the world.